The morning fog cleared from the grass field at Deeridge Farm, welcoming Level 2 Jumpers to the $24,750 Ridge at Wellington Invitational Grand Prix Finale. After 10 weeks of heated competition, the $175,00 series came to a conclusion today, seeing 54 entrants tackle the 1.40m course. It was Marie Hecart who wore a target on her back throughout the competition, securing the win with a double-clear effort in a mere 37.206 seconds with Lalique.
It was a battle of the best today in the series finale as top riders, amateurs and juniors contended for the $24,750 purse, and it was not going to be an easy feat. Eric Hasbrouck designed today's track, using 13 obstacles to test horse and rider alike. The course included a triple-bar, bending lines and both a double and triple combination. For those who were able to keep all rails intact, they were rewarded with the even more challenging jump-off. Only 14 of the 54 entries were able to pilot their mounts to double-clear efforts.
They first tackled the opening single vertical, moving over the triple bar set on the outside, and then made a sharp right turn to a skinny vertical that could make or break the time accrued. Riders then had to move forward over an orange and yellow vertical down the diagonal and make a hard right rollback to the oxer-vertical double combination. The penultimate obstacle was a yellow oxer that saw many rails fall, and then riders took a red-and-white vertical to trip the timers and seal their fate.
Hillary Simpson was only the second rider of the day, utilizing the open in gate policy to her advantage with an early morning start time. Her early start set the pace for all of the other riders, with Simpson leaving the farm as the morning's trailblazer with a double-clear effort aboard Nopus du gue Joubert, owned by Quiet Hill Farm. Although Alexandra Thorton posted the second double-clear effort of the day only two rounds later with Quiletto du Domane, it was Sarah Segal who would pave the way.
Segal laid down a seemingly effortless first round aboard Ladonna, owned by Kathleen Kamine, and moved into the jump-off without fear. She piloted the 8-year-old mount to a blazing double-clear effort, breaking the beam in 37.235 seconds.
Segal laughed, "Ladonna is homebred by Languster, Nona's stallion, and she's out of Wildonna, who Nona also rode. She's an amazing horse-fast and careful. She is just a quick horse; she likes a little support, and is a little more of a shorter strided horse. It's beautiful, and pretty amazing to be here. We've had the jumps at the Winter Equestrian Festival for all these weeks, so it's nice to jump different fences and compete at different venues, it keeps the riders and horses fresh."
It seemed as though her lead of nearly four seconds was insurmountable, until Marie Hecart came into the picture. Aboard Lalique, owned by the Normandie Collection, Hecart soared over the first round in an outstanding time of only 82 seconds, clearly well ahead of the time allowed of 91 seconds. It was the jump-off that had the other riders on the edge of their seats. Hecart managed to stop the clock 2/100ths of a second ahead of Segal.
"I just started riding Lalique last week on the grass, and I jumped at the opportunity to come to Deeridge and ride at another grass venue," eventual winner Hecart explained. "I think the course was really good, and the footing was great. It made my horse really jump."
Hecart continued, "My plan was to stay in the top three, and honestly, I probably could have gone faster. Lalique is really confident and is scopey enough for this kind of class. It is a really nice class for these horses, I love having the opportunity to go to these classes."
Segal attempted to best Hecart aboard her second mount of the class, Tilghman, owned by Horatio St. Ventures, but an unfortunate rail in the jump off sealed her second place finish. She did, however, post the fastest jump-off time of the day, finishing in only 36.601 seconds with heartbreak over the final vertical as the rail dropped.
"Tilghman won last week, so I really thought we had it again when I realized how fast our pace was out there," Segal stated. "I am happy with being in the top three though, and I really enjoyed it this year and enjoyed the format; it made it possible to do no matter what your schedule was. Everyone seems to be enjoying it. It seems like the class has gotten bigger and bigger every week. It definitely fits a niche."
Andrew Bourns and Gatsby secured the third place finish with a double-clear effort in 37.622 seconds, while Lorenzo de Luca and Zoe II rode to the fourth place ribbon. Lauren Crooks eventually took the fifth place award with Navare D'Oriolles, and Kalvin Dobbs and Winde rounded out the top six.
"This is the third time I have shown at the Ridge events now, and we just keep getting better and better. I was happy with my round today. It was really hot, both for rider and horse, I was just trying to ride as fast as I could, and I think we did really well," Bourns explained. "This is the last event for this horse, he goes back to Sweden next week, so it is a nice finish for him. I am very happy that there is this kind of option, with there being so many weeks, at WEF, it is nice for horse and rider to have a different kind of environment and place to show."
The 2013 Winter Circuit has been riveting with exciting new jumper action lying outside of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. The Ridge at Wellington's $175,000 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix Series has complemented the Winter Equestrian Festival for 10 weeks, offering a variety of venues for Level 2 Jumpers as they hone their skills as riders, and those of their young horses. This season has also hosted a number of historical landmarks for Wellington, not only opening the gates to the illustrious Mida Farms and newly renovated "Tops Field," but also hosting competition at the beautiful Deeridge Farm.
The brainchild of George D'Ambrosio and Nona Garson, the $175,000 Ridge at Wellington 1.40m Invitational Series has welcomed top professionals, amateurs and juniors alike to take their turn at the chance to win the weekly $15,000 1.40m Grand Prix. The pilot series has hosted large numbers of entries each week, boasting low entry fees, high prize money and top-of-the-line courses for participating riders. After 10 weeks of competition, the series has found its niche in Wellington, complementing the Winter Equestrian Festival, and the show managers guarantee its return for the 2014 season. The Ridge at Wellington would like to thank all of its fantastic sponsors and hosts for their 1.40 Invitational Grand Prix Series.
"We're really excited and proud of how the series went," Garson explained. "The riders have all seemed to really enjoy it, as well as warm up to the system. Everyone liked our idea of an open in gate, so they could show and do everything they had to. We thought it was a nice civilized way to horseshow. We wanted everyone to come and relax and take an hour out of their day and get away from the grind. It is great for the horses to be ridden on some different footing, and this series was about having fun, as well as developing young riders and horses."
Garson concluded, "Everyone seemed to love it, and it seemed to be great as the top riders went very fast and tested the footing nicely. I've had people calling to congratulate us; the whole buzz has been really great and upbeat. We're going to try to hone our ideas and bring in some more venues and keep it fun, civilized horse showing. I think it's a series for horse people, it's not about how many times you can go around the ring, or how fast-It gets you to take a little breath and concentrate on what you're doing and getting back to a little more natural horse training."
GRAND PRIX RESULTS
1 353 LALIQUE MARIE HECART 0 0 0 37.206
2 380 LADONNA SARAH SEGAL 0 0 0 39.808
3 371 GATSBY ANDREW BOURNS 0 0 0 37.622
4 373 ZOE II LORENZO DE LUCA 0 0 0 38.199
5 346 NAVARE D'ORIOLLES LAUREN CROOKS 0 0 0 38.508
6 383 WINDE KALVIN DOBBS 0 0 0 38.871
7 363 PUMPED UP KICKS LILLIE KEENAN 0 0 0 38.917
8 366 HESTER MARIO DESLAURIERS 0 0 0 39.004
9 391 JAPAN PENNY BRENNAN 0 0 0 39.863
10 362 LONDINIUM LILLIE KEENAN 0 0 0 40.054
11 350 KENYON PETER LUTZ 0 0 0 40.063
12 342 RANCUNE VAN HET GRAVENHOF JUDY GARAFALO TORRES 0 0 0 40.696
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group
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